Root, root, root
Baseball season is finally here! Our movie guy picks the best and worst ballpark flicks.
The 2015 baseball season has begun, and it’s time to watch some Reno Aces games. It’s also time to bemoan the loss of your closer if you are a New York Mets fan, which I am. So here I go.
Thanks a lot, Jenrry Mejia … it’s so totally believable that you have no idea how that performance enhancing drug got into your system, you jackass. Oh, I’m totally buying your sob story. Now go take your mandatory 80 game rest, you big stupid jerk.
OK, back on point. I’m a sucker for a good baseball movie. Some of the movies on my below “Best Baseball Movies Ever Made” list also stand among my favorite movies of all time. The Best list is followed by a list of movies that make the sport look lame and unbearable because, as with most things, we need balance, people. Balance.The best baseball movies
1. The Bad News Bears (1976): Not only a great film about the game, but one of the greatest movies ever made about kids. I was a kid when this movie played theaters and, trust me, director Michael Ritchie nailed the '70s, crappy mouthed '70s kids, and the rigors of Little League. All of us Little Leaguers knew a Tanner Boyle, Amanda Whurlitzer and Kelly Leak growing up. It boasts vintage Walter Matthau as a boozing baseball coach, and it will never get old.
2. Eight Men Out (1988): This one's a nice chronicle of one of the games darker stories, the Chicago White Sox throwing the championship for a payday. John Sayles did a credible job presenting the game while uncorking a great drama. Say it ain't so, Joe.
3. Field of Dreams (1989): Shoeless Joe Jackson got a little posthumous redemption in the form of Ray Liotta hanging out in a corn field with this sentimental winner. This is my favorite Kevin Costner baseball movie. Yes, it's above Bull Durham on this list. I think that admittedly fun movie is more about screwing groupies than the game.
4. Moneyball (2011): Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the former Mets prospect who crossed over to the executive side of baseball and developed a statistics-driven, low-cash way to build a ball team. Garnered Jonah Hill a much deserved Oscar nomination.
5. The Natural (1984): My editor hates this movie, but I'm a big sucker for that baseball going into the light tower at the end and Robert Redford rounding the bases amidst fireworks. It's corny, but it's great. My editor is a callous bastard.
6. The Pride of the Yankees (1942): Gary Cooper plays the great Lou Gehrig, who died of a disease that would bear his name soon thereafter. Some elements of the film haven't aged well, including Cooper's obvious lack of baseball ability. However, you can't beat that final speech, and it's pretty neat that Babe Ruth plays himself in the flick. He's actually really good!
7. Bull Durham (1988): OK, after an argument with Brad, the editor, I've decided this film does deserve a place on the list, if only for the scene where Costner's Crash Davis tips the pitches. Damn, the late '80s were a great time for baseball movies.
8. The Rookie (2002): Based on the true story of Jim Morris, a high school baseball coach who made it to the big leagues when he was 35, well past the usual debut age for a rookie. Dennis Quaid makes for a credible athlete and the story is a great one; and it's mostly true.
9. 61* (2001): A great baseball movie made by a big baseball lover (Billy Crystal directed). It chronicles the controversial pursuit of Babe Ruth's single season home run record and the stress it put on Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane) and Roger Maris (Barry Pepper). It really captures the spirit of the game.
10. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988): OK, so it isn't all about baseball, but it does take an outstanding, satirical punch at the game during its final scenes. It also features O.J. Simpson getting catapulted out of a wheelchair and off of the upper deck of a baseball stadium, something we can all feel good about.
I focused on narrative feature films with the above list, but I should give honorable mentions to a couple of great documentaries. Baseball by Ken Burns is just the all-time great encyclopedia for the game, an absolute treasure. Also, you might want to check out The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a great doc that features Kurt Russell and his real-life, short-lived baseball career.The worst baseball movies
1. The Bad News Bears (2005): Even though it had a trustworthy director in Richard Linklater, and Billy Bob Thornton stepping into Walter Matthau's role as Buttermaker, this remake is a prime example of how you should leave a classic alone. It's a weak effort, and a pox on the baseball movie genre.
2. The Fan (1996): This is the first appearance by Wesley Snipes on this list. His performance is an obvious riff on Barry Bonds, and Robert De Niro embarrasses himself as the obsessed title character. This movie is a foul ball that breaks your teeth behind the dugout while you're eating your hot dog.
3. The Babe (1992): John Goodman in goofy prosthetic makeup as Babe Ruth in a film that makes the legend look like a clown. 1948's The Babe Ruth Story starring William Bendix as the Babe was also pretty bad. Come to think of it, it seems that Babe Ruth was the only one who could ever play Babe Ruth.
4. Johnny Stinko Can't Throw for Shit! (2024): Not a real movie, but I sincerely feel I should write a treatment right now because this would be the greatest movie title ever. I think I will make the subject Jenrry Mejia. God, I hate that guy!
5. Rookie of the Year (1993): All I remember about this misfire baseball flick is the kid standing on first base going, “Pitcher has got a big butt!” I remember that annoyed me.
6. Major League (1989): Not a fan of this movie or its sequels. Wesley Snipes gets two hits on the worst list.
7. Trouble With the Curve (2012): Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake join forces to make baseball boring and predictable. Hey, John Goodman is in this, too. Two hits for him, too.
8. Brewster's Millions (1985): Richard Pryor plays a baseball player who has to spend a bunch of money for some stupid reason in this stupid movie that costarred John Candy as a catcher. It's a movie where baseball is just a backdrop rather than the focus, and it's not funny. Pryor did also star in the pretty good baseball movie, The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings, so he gets a pass for this infraction.
9. The Winning Team (1952): Ronald Reagan stars as pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, and the results are laughably bad. I remember snickering at this one when I was a kid, goofing on Reagan's throwing arm. I also could never stand Doris Day, who plays Cleveland's wife. I know it's surly and disagreeable to put down Ronald Reagan and make fun of Doris Day, but that's how I roll.
10. Mr. Destiny (1990): Jim Belushi stars as a man haunted by his little league failures. Therefore, it has to be bad. Not to be confused with the Tom Selleck baseball movie, Mr. Baseball, which also sucked.